Special report on the Florida Gators soccer team.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Preseason No. 7 Florida soccer meets Mississippi State Wednesday for its only exhibition match of 2017. Match time is set for 7 p.m. at the James G. Pressly Stadium and admission is free.
The two Southeastern Conference programs will meet Wednesday, but will not face each other during 2017 regular-season action.
About the Gators:
The 31-member Gator squad includes eight starters from the 2016 NCAA Sweet 16 team.
Two on the 2017 Florida team earned All-SEC honors last season – Kristen Cardano (second team) and Gabby Seiler (first team). A third Gator defender, Julia Lester, earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2016.
Ten of the 16 Gators who earned points in 2016 return this season. Of the 169 points generated by the 2016 Gators, graduation claimed six players who contributed 87 points and 31 goals – Savannah Jordan (16 goals, 9 assists – 41 points), Meggie Dougherty Howard (8g, 12a – 28 pts), Brooke Sharp (4g, 1a – 9 pts), Pamela Begic (3g – 6pts), Betsy Middleton (2a – 2pts), Erika Nelson (1a – 1pt)
Three join Florida as transfers – Laís Araujo / ASA Junior College-Brooklyn; Parker Roberts / Kansas and Alex Stubblebine / Cincinnati). All three are eligible to compete for the Gators in 2017.
Gators’ Five Freshmen:
This class brings experience from state, national and international levels – including some from the sport’s top events:
· Madison Alexander of Dorr, Mich., has been a member of U.S. Youth National teams
· Samantha Earle was the 2013 Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) 2A State Player of the Year while with Gulliver Prep. She also played for Sunrise Soccer club, winners of the 2016 Disney Showcase.
· Lauren Evans of Lithia attended Olympic Development Program (ODP) and id2 Player Development Program (PDP) Nike camps. She was part of Newsome H.S. teams which advanced to the 2016 and 2017 Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Class 5A semifinals.
· Deanne Rose was a member of Canada’s bronze-medal team at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, scoring Canada’s first goal and assisting the game-winner in the bronze medal match. She is the third current Gator to play in the 2016 FIFA U-20 World Cup, starting each of Canada’s three matches.
· Ailey Tebbett is the sixth from Gainesville to sign with the Gator soccer team. The goalkeeper from Oak Hall School also plays for Florida Elite Soccer Academy, winner of the 2015 U-16 Disney Soccer Showcase.
About Mississippi State:
MSU’s 2017 roster features 15 players returning from last season’s team. The Bulldogs welcome 12 newcomers – the most by an MSU squad since the 2014 team featured 18 new Bulldogs.
The Bulldog’s return senior forward Mallory Eubanks, who led MSU in points (9), goals (3), assists (3) in 2016 on her way to earning All-SEC second team honors.
In 2016, MSU posted a 6-12 record and finished 14th in the league standings with a 1-10 SEC record. Head Coach Tom Anagnost begins his first season at MSU in 2017.
One familiar face on the MSU sideline is Bulldog Coordinator of Soccer Operations Betsy Middleton. She played for the Gators in the 2014-16 seasons, earning College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America honors as a junior and senior.
Florida ranks No. 7 on the United Soccer Coaches (USC) preseason poll. It is Florida’s sixth straight year among the nation’s preseason top 10.
Soccer is the first Florida team competing this season, as the Gators open the 2017 season on Friday, Aug. 18 at Florida Atlantic.
Then the Gators return home to begin a three-match home stand, beginning with Troy on Sunday, Aug. 20 at 1 p.m. That match will be played at Pressly Stadium and admission is free for all regular-season home matches.